The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Backlash to grief

Blame culture’s role in the opioid epidemic

With the apparent overdose death of rapper Mac Miller on Sept. 7, the ongoing opioid crisis in America continues to be illuminated.

Miller, an artist whose music spoke to youth and who was the headlining act for the St. Joe’s spring concert in 2017, was only 26 when he died— one among tens of thousands of young people who die of overdoses each year in the U.S.

The wind tunnel that is the Internet has allowed blame culture to develop in our country surrounding these tragic losses due to the opoid epidemic.

The death of a beloved public figure inevitably affects the world at large and Miller was no exception. Fans mourned him on social media, fellow musicians paid tribute in song and obituaries recalled his playful nature and poignant lyrics.  

Amongst the recognition, though, existed an  accusatory narrative, in which observers began to point fingers at a possible motive for his overdose.

The scapegoat became Miller’s ex-girlfriend, pop singer Ariana Grande, who broke up with him earlier this year.

Grande faced a wave of backlash in April after their breakup and responded by calling their connection “a toxic relationship.” Acknowledging that she had been trying to help him with his issues, Grande, in a tweet, called for people to stop of blaming women for their significant other’s substance abuse problems.

Upon Miller’s passing, flames of online bullying against Grande were reignited. The original TMZ article that broke the news subtly hinted their breakup was a factor in his return to drug use and commenters on Instagram blamed her outright, causing Grande to disable comments on her posts.

This seems to be a recurring response from people, not just the commenters on celebrities’ social media pages.

Every time someone speaks about substance use and the subsequent loss of a life, people point fingers at those they feel are responsible rather than looking to the actual cause, the substance use itself. Substance abuse disorder isn’t a situational habit, it is a disease.

Blame culture can, in a lot of ways, be attributed to the underlying stigma around substance abuse in general. When a loved one is struggling with substance abuse disorder, there is an overwhelming need to preserve the appearance of normalcy, but substance use disorder isn’t pretty.

It takes a serious toll on everyone affected by it, not only the user, as familial relationships and friendships are often tested and exploited.

Keeping their substance abuse under wraps seems to be the only way to both honor who the loved one once was, as well as protect them from the stigma.

In our third edition of the Opioid Crisis special issue series, the story “Sister recalls the loss of her brother,” detailed one woman’s struggle to reconcile the person her brother became at the height of his addiction with the person she knew growing up.

While explaining how her brother Zack first became exposed to drugs, Peters placed blame with Zack’s social circle as a teenager, saying he “fell in with the wrong crowd.”

The inherent tragedy of Miller’s death doesn’t give anyone the right to blame his loved ones. The fact that Miller was a beloved figure doesn’t warrant an inquisitional crusade against anyone who was close to him.

Neither families of those who’ve lost someone to substance abuse nor victims of substance abuse deserve to have their pain made worse.

—The Hawk Staff

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